Nigel Morris: Why I invested in Fanbytes after leaving Dentsu
Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself and that is true of the year since I left Dentsu. It’s been a lot of fun, been hugely stimulating and has also fired some optimism about the future. Sandwiched between various storms, the coronavirus outbreak, bushfires, and trade wars, we are also seeing innovation leaps across a number of digital technologies and a new crop of future leaders who are primed to do things differently. And potentially, much better.
I set out last year to build out a portfolio of start-up investments. I’d always been passionate about the potential of digital technology and too often disappointed in reality. My focus was to find ideas, innovations, technologies, teams, and leaders that could really make a difference.
I’ve learned a lot. There is no substitute for putting your own skin in the game and committing to the things you think will work. Getting properly involved as young businesses come together in today’s environment has been very enlightening. I’ve invested in data science, technology, marketing services, media and also new product brands. There is no magic formula for success but, depending on whether the focus is technology, services or products, there are some success factors that are consistent.
Perhaps the most important factor toin business success is leadership; the ability of founders to rise above the brutality of the start-up process is key. We are all looking for brilliance in new leaders. Every founder who seeks to become a genuine leader needs to be a team builder; they need energy and resilience. But what differentiates the best is whether they can articulate ‘why’ they founded the business, other than money? Are they clear on the purpose of the business and the role it aims to fill in the market and its customer’s lives? Can they explain why it will succeed, and more importantly what would cause it not to? My number one success factor for leadership as of now, is whether they ‘listen and reflect before they act’?
This approach is also key to the future role of marketing. Can it help change the world? Unequivocally, yes. The core role of marketing is to deliver growth for businesses, organizations, and brands. The futures of the economy, society, and the environment don’t need any growth, they need sustainable growth. Sustainable growth is most likely to be created by innovations in technology and science harnessed by thoughtful young leaders.
It was brilliant to see Fanbytes founder Timothy Armoo win the JP Morgan ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’. Timo is 25 and Fanbytes is already his second business. Together with his partners Ambrose and Mitch, he is building a powerful marketing business and a powerful Fanbytes culture around a Gen Z audience. They are already 35 people, with their work present in seven countries. What makes it compelling is that it’s a Gen Z team of experts rather than a team of Gen Z experts. They are living, as well as delivering, marketing that understands and engages with its audience, not just delivering short term performance numbers. This has won them, clients, from McDonald’s, Deliveroo, The Department of Education and the ACCA.
I first invested in Fanbytes because of the combination of talent, great work, and a sound plan. What has been so rewarding since then is that, when a new opportunity arose Timo sought advice across a number of areas, from a number of people, especially on how to best nurture the idea into a strategy and approach that could build a whole new business rather than register another quick win. He wants to understand why things happen, not just that they did. He wants to understand why he is going to do something, not just tick off another KPI achieved. They were recently described by Forbes as redefining how brands are marketing to Gen Z and millennials
Leaders like Timo make me hopeful about the future, just like Joyeeta Das at Gyana. She was recently featured in the FT Top 100 women in Tech and is truly innovating in the area of ‘no-code’ data science with passion and bravery. Success here, would not just be a success for Gyana but for the whole economy; nothing less than data science for everyone and for the exponential increase in data to produce a commensurate increase in knowledge. At the same Duncan Clark is making data understandable and even beautiful at Flourish.
Victor Riparbelli and the team at Synthesia are pioneering breakthrough techniques in synthetic media. Getting this right, responsibly, will revolutionize training and L&D as well as have a massive impact on the ability of businesses to generate personalized content at a scale to match the availability of highly targeted media.
Marc Warner at faculty.ai is redefining what ai can do for businesses and organizations. Emily Sheffield is setting out to redefine the news for a generation at This Much I Know. Tom Salvat is innovating content marketing at Concured and Sam Huber and Admix are transforming games as an effective and engaging marketing channel. David Ripert at Poplar is taking all his experience from Netflix and YouTube to create quality marketing experiences in AR and 3D that use technology to engage, not just batter consumers.
All this is happening fast. If a decade is a 30-minute piece of content, then a month is a TikTok video. The few weeks of this new decade perfectly encapsulated the challenges facing our world. There is a wave of new leaders and we need to support them to fulfill their potential, and the potential of technology and of marketing to change the world. It will be exciting and for the better.
Nigel Morris was chief strategy and innovation officer at Dentsu Aegis Network.